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Towards more seamless travels and enhanced sustainability on our roads

Commuters in Jakarta spent 214 hours driving in rush-hour traffic in 2022, while those in Bangkok spent 192 hours, and in Kuala Lumpur, it was 159 hours, according to a report by TomTom Traffic Index. This highlights the serious issue of traffic congestion faced by cities in Asia and around the world. With the global urban population expected to reach 6 billion people by 2045, cities are grappling with the challenges of congestion, carbon emissions, pollution, and lost productivity.

To tackle these problems, cities have started adopting congestion pricing schemes. Singapore was the first to implement an electronic multi-lane, free-flow congestion pricing toll collection system in 1998. Since then, cities like London, Stockholm, and Milan have also introduced their own road tolls and congestion pricing schemes. Now, New York City is set to implement its own congestion pricing project in 2024, while cities in ASEAN such as Manila, Bangkok, Jakarta, and Kuala Lumpur are reportedly considering congestion pricing within the next decade.

The World Bank predicts that the world’s urban population will increase by 1.5 times by 2045, with 55% of the Asian population living in cities by 2030. This rapid urban growth puts immense pressure on cities to provide affordable housing, employment, and viable infrastructure systems. Building more roads and public transportation alone is not a sustainable solution due to limitations in space, budget constraints, and managing peak travel periods and congestion.

Congestion pricing systems, like Singapore’s Electronic Road Pricing (ERP), can effectively moderate rush hour traffic by incentivizing people to drive during off-peak hours, use less congested routes, or opt for public transportation. However, congestion pricing alone is not sufficient and should be part of a holistic solution that includes an efficient public transportation network and complementary transport policies.

ST Engineering, a global technology, defense, and engineering group, has been at the forefront of implementing intelligent transportation systems. They developed the Expressway Monitoring and Advisory System in Singapore, which complements the ERP by monitoring traffic conditions and providing real-time data. ST Engineering’s subsidiary, TransCore, is currently working on the Central Business District (CBD) Tolling Program in New York, aiming to reduce congestion and raise funds for critical transit projects.

Different cities have different objectives for implementing congestion pricing schemes. In Singapore, the main objective was to reduce congestion and encourage greater use of public transportation. Congestion pricing not only generates revenue for infrastructure maintenance and modernization but also contributes to sustainability initiatives. ASEAN economies require significant infrastructure investments, and tolls can help meet these demands.

Implementing congestion pricing requires a tolling system that can accurately detect and assign tolls to different vehicle classes. TransCore, with its expertise in tolling solutions, ensures reliable toll collection and processing. The system must be robust, with round-the-clock operations and minimal breakdowns. Additionally, cities need legal frameworks for enforcement and reliable payment collection systems.

In conclusion, congestion pricing can be an effective solution to tackle traffic congestion, carbon emissions, and infrastructure funding shortfalls. However, it should be part of a larger strategy that includes an efficient public transportation network, complementary transport policies, and reliable tolling systems. By considering these key thrusts, congestion pricing can contribute to improving the quality of life in cities and promoting sustainable urban development.

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